Posts Tagged ‘travel’

I <3 PHX: Desert Botanical Garden

Monday, March 17th, 2014

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When I say “Phoenix”, what comes to mind? Most people would likely respond with something about our intense heat or the vast Sonoran Desert that stretches through Arizona. If you’ve never traveled to Phoenix you probably underestimate the amount of delicious food, art and history our great city has to offer. The Desert Botanical Garden is one of my most favorite places in Phoenix to visit. Each trip to the garden is a new experience, an opportunity to witness nature’s lifecycle. A Phoenix Point of Pride, the DBG opened in 1939 and boasts over 55,000 plant displays stretching across 140 acres of land. It’s a sprawling oasis in the middle of the city. Acres of cacti are flanked by lush gardens filled with shade trees and wildflowers. Native wildlife is all around too, from butterflies and hummingbirds to rabbits, lizards and squirrels.

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Over the weekend, Rob and I went to the DBG to see the Chihuly in the Garden exhibition. Dale Chihuly is a world renowned artist, best known for his brightly colored glass sculptures which are massive and extravagant. The exhibition was like nothing I’ve ever seen. In Chihuly in the Garden, Chihuly has created colorful pieces of glass that mimic the native desert plants. The pieces appear to have been planted and many seem to have grown since the exhibit opened, they stretch out and curl around the plants they share space with. At times it felt like a wonderful Easter egg hunt, walking along the meandering trails we’d spot a splash of color, and walk just a little bit faster, anxious to see what was up ahead.

The DBG is open daily from 8:00am-8:00p. General admission tickets for Chihuly in the Garden are $22.00 (adults), $20.00 (seniors), $12.00 (students) and $10.00 (children ages 3-12). Note: ticket prices vary based on current events and featured exhibition.

Have you been to the Desert Botanical Garden? What’s your favorite place to visit in Phoenix? Be sure to let us know in the comment section below.

Holiday Gift Guide: Hostess Gifts

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

If you have ever hosted a party, or even a dinner get-together, you know that it’s a lot of work. As an attendee, it’s a nice gesture to bring a small gift (something that is valued at $25 or less) to thank your hostess for the evening. A hostess gift does not need to be elaborate or expensive. Think simple and affordable. 

As a frequent hostess, I can tell you that the gifts I appreciate the most are the ones I can use when entertaining around the holidays. I have had many a time when dinner out has lead to impromptu drinks or dessert at my home, and having an arsenal of wine and already-made desserts on hand makes my job much easier. I can just run home, open a bottle of wine or brew a pot of coffee, plate some cookies or brownies, and enjoy.

Below is a gift guide with some of my favorite holiday hostess gifts:

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1. Bottle of Wine: Pick what you like. I love opening a bottle of wine that I know someone bought me and thinking that they gave me one of their favorites.
2. Local Microbrew: Does your host/hostess prefer beer? Bring a six-pack of a local microbrew, or even better, get a growler (we love the ones above from Oktoberfest Haus) and take it to your local brewery, or to Whole Foods, to be filled. Whole Foods offers discounts on refills during its biweekly happy hours.
3. Cocktail Ice Mold: For the host that enjoys his or her cocktails “on the rocks,” this ice mold is the perfect gift. The design is meant to keep the temperature of the drink cool, while minimizing melting, thus keeping the drink from getting watered down.
4. Scented Candle: Pick a scent that is fresh and clean and not overpowering, like Pier 1’s Citrus Cilantro.
5. Fairytale Brownies: Fairytale Brownies are an Arizona original, and individually wrapped, so they stay fresh longer.
6. Fancy Salts: Pink, black, sea, or laced with truffle oil , salts are a great gift that any foodie would adore.
7. Set of Cheese Knives or Cocktail Plates: I love getting these and have four little sets of cocktail plates that I can change out depending on my mood. These sets are both from Crate & Barrel.
8. Coffee or Tea w/Infuser: A bag of your host’s favorite coffee, or loose tea and a fun infuser like the one above are a great way to show your thanks every morning when he or she sips that first cup of the day.
9. Jams/Jellies – Don’t do your basic strawberry or blackberry – go to somewhere like Williams Sonoma, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market and pick up a couple of jars of something a little more exotic, like Blackberry Farm’s Apple Onion Jam.

To wrap, use a store-bought bag (something cloth or reusable is best) or simply tie a bow around the item. Be sure to include a small card so that the hostess knows that the item was from you. If you are really into planning ahead, buy a few bottles of your favorite wine, or any of the nonperishable suggestions, and keep them on hand so that you don’t have to rush out the week of the party to buy something. 

What is your favorite host/hostess gift that you have ever received? Do you have any great ideas that aren’t listed above? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments.

Happy Holidays!

A Tisket, A Tasket – Let’s Make a Guest Welcome Basket!

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

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With the holidays fast approaching, many of us have family or other guests coming into town to visit. A great way to make those staying with you feel welcome is by putting together a basic guest basket for their room.

A guest basket should consist of items usually forgotten when traveling. Although a larger initial expense, it is inexpensive to maintain, since most guests will not use all the items on each visit.

The image below shows some items you might include:

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1. Basket/Container (Target has a great selection of organizers.)
2. Lip Balm
3. First Aid Kit
4. Mouthwash
5. Makeup Remover Towelettes
6. Gum
7. Wrinkle Release Spray/Static Guard
8. Lint Roller (especially if you have pets who shed)
9. Toothpaste
10. Shaving Cream & Razor
11. Lotion (I like a relaxing scent like lavender)
12. Sunscreen
13. Hairspray
14. Mani/Pedi Set, Nail File, Nail Clippers
15. Baby Powder
16. Hand Sanitizer
17. Floss
18. Cotton Swabs

Some additional items that would be good to have on hand are a box of tissues and a toothbrush (this is a great way to use all those brushes your dentist gives you).

I leave my guest basket on the dresser along with a vase of flowers, a few squares of Ghirardelli chocolate, a couple of bottles of water, and either some magazines, a crossword puzzle or Sudoku book and a pen.

The holidays can be hectic, so providing your guests with a room that is comfortable, and stocked with the basics, will make their stay even more enjoyable.

If you received a guest basket while visiting someone during the holiday season, what would you like to receive? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Fall Foliage 2013: Where We Ate

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The Wilderness Girls pride ourselves on being localvores (someone who eats/shops/does business locally, to use it in the broadest sense), and that holds true for our Fall Foliage trips as well!

It’s really easy to go to a chain that you know and are familiar with, but it’s so much more beneficial to the community you visit if you dine at a locally-owned restaurant and you often get better food quality and service to boot.

This year we had a good mix of 2012 favorites and new 2013 picks. Check out our restaurants of choice below.

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Beeline Café (Payson, AZ)
Located on the Beeline Highway is a little diner-style spot called Beeline Café. This has become our annual “kicking off the trip” breakfast spot that we hit before our first hike. The menu includes stick-to-your-ribs classics like biscuits and gravy, hearty omelets, oatmeal, as well as sweet creations like Cinnamon Roll French Toast (they use sliced cinnamon rolls instead of bread). The food is classic comfort and the people are genuinely nice (especially when asked for multiple photos of your group in various locations in the restaurant).

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Photo credit – Beer Search Party

Beaver Street Brewery (Flagstaff, AZ)
Right in the heart of the historic section of Flagstaff, and near the Northern Arizona University campus, this microbrewery/restaurant serves up great beer and American classics like pizza, burgers, chicken pot pie and sausage/brat platters. Our favorite item off the menu was the Beaver Street Brewery Fondue – cheddar cheese, onions and beer, with bread and veggies to dip. I would recommend getting a couple of fondues, or a fondue and side salads. We all agreed that after the fondue, we were not sure we could finish our meals.

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Photo credit – Yelp user Farrah. J.

The Sweet Shoppe & Nut House (Flagstaff, AZ)
After a long day of hiking, we stopped back in old town Flagstaff to browse the shops, and after walking by The Sweet Shoppe and getting a whiff of the chocolate inside, we were drawn in like moths to a flame. Since we were inside, we all decided we would get “just a piece of something.” It was well worth the splurge. In addition to a huge assortment of fudges and chocolates, they have chocolate covered potato chips, Oreos, pretzel rods, as well as huge caramel-covered apples and a gelato stand.

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Northern Pines (Flagstaff, AZ)
Just like The Beeline Café has become our first day of the trip breakfast spot, Northern Pines has become our last day of the trip breakfast spot. You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu. We have sampled everything from their multiple benedicts, to tamales and eggs, to pancakes and French toast and it’s all delicious. They even have a chicken fried steak burrito, which looked amazing when we saw another guest receive it, even though it was easily the size of her forearm. It’s a popular spot too, so get there early!

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Rock Springs Café (Black Canyon City, AZ)
Rock Springs Café, hands-down, has the best pie in the world. And you would never guess it, as it’s a small building/restaurant along the side of the I-17 going back to Phoenix. You can either stop in the bakery section and pick up a piece of (or whole) pie to go, or you can do like we do, and sit a spell in the café, and enjoy some comfort food, a piece of pie, and then order another for the road (and for each of The Wilderness Hubs). They have sandwiches, burgers, chili, green chili mac & cheese and fried pickles on the regular menu. And the pies run the gamut from fruit (both full crust and crumble), to cream pies, to meringues, to their signature pie – Jack Daniels pecan. It’s not too far from Phoenix, so it’s worth a day trip.

What are your favorite places to eat in Flagstaff, Sedona, or on the way? Share them in the comments below! We are always looking for new options for our next Fall Foliage trip!

Hungry for more fall foliage photos? Check out our photostream on Flickr.